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Our PickAn explainer on Space Tourism

An explainer on Space Tourism

Published: 13th Jul 2021 8:46 pm

British billionaire Richard Branson on July 11, Sunday, completed his trip to the edge of space aboard the VSS Unity spaceship and returned safely to Earth. Branson and his team, consisting of 5 other members, experienced weightlessness and saw a beautiful view of the Earth as they reached 85 kilometers beyond the boundary of space. Read here about space tourism and the firms involved in the commercial activity….

Space tourism

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Private forays into space aren’t anything new. Since 2000, several deep-pocketed tourists have spent tens of millions of dollars to fly to the International Space Station. In addition, NASA has gradually encouraged private companies to take over US launches of cargo and astronauts to the ISS. Commercial cargo flights for NASA began in 2012, and commercial crew flights began in 2020.

First space tourist

Space tourism is commercial activity related to space. That could be going to space as a tourist, watching a rocket launch, going stargazing, or traveling to a space-focused destination. Since the flight of the world’s first space tourist, American businessman Dennis Tito, on April 28, 2001, space tourism has gained new prominence as more suborbital and orbital tourism opportunities have become available.

Space Tourism
Dennis Tito

What is there to do in space?

Float, stare and wonder. The VSS Unity experiences several minutes of microgravity at the peak of its roughly 90-minute journey. Passengers are allowed to unbuckle and float around the pressurized cabin, take photos and videos

Does the trip make Branson and others an astronaut?

It does. The Federal Aviation Administration defines space as starting at 50 miles, the so-called Armstrong Line, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration recognizes anyone traveling above it as an astronaut.

How far did the team go?

The flight reached its apogee at 2,82,000 feet — 53.41 miles — where the passengers were able to unstrap and experience weightlessness. The spacecraft then fell back to earth and a landing at 11:39 Eastern time.

When can I go to space?

By the end of the decade, Virgin Galactic hopes to expand to more than 400 flights a year and carry thousands aloft from Spaceports dotted around the globe. The company is initially targeting high net worth individuals

Some private players in space tourism

Virgin Galactic

Founder- Richard Branson

Founded: 2004

It is a British-American spaceflight company that operates in the United States. It was founded by Richard Branson and his Virgin Group retains a 24% stake. It is developing commercial spacecraft and aims to provide suborbital spaceflights to space tourists.

Blue Origin

FounderJeff Bezos

Founded:  2000

Blue Origin, LLC is an American privately funded aerospace manufacturer and sub-orbital spaceflight services company headquartered in Kent, Washington


FounderJose Mariano López-Urdiales

Founded: 2009

 Zero 2 Infinity is a private Spanish company developing high-altitude balloons intended to provide access to near space and low Earth orbit using a balloon-borne pod and a balloon-borne launcher. The company was founded in 2009 by aerospace engineer Jose Mariano López-Urdiales, the current CEO.


FounderElon Musk

Founded: 6 May 2002

SpaceX is not a strictly space tourism company. But even they entered the industry in late 2017 by agreeing to fly two private citizens around the moon. They also have a contract to fly paying tourists to the ISS.

Space tourism and India

Aeronautical engineer Sirisha Bandla became the third Indian-origin woman to fly into space on Virgin Galactic‘s first fully crewed suborbital test flight from New Mexico. Sirisha is the third Indian-origin woman to fly into space after Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams.

Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma is the only Indian citizen to travel in space.

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